It’s hard to wake up every day and let my kids play video games as much as they want. I feel scared, like they will look back on their childhood and think it was full of missed opportunity or dull repetition. I have to spent hours reading about the benefits of video games and the importance of child-directed learning.

But any time the kids show any interest in something that is not video games, I’m all over it.

We live on a farm, two hours from shopping that is not even worth driving two hours for, so we buy everything online. The UPS truck comes pretty much every day. And the FedEx truck. We get deliveries from both every day. (You might think it’s extreme, but we buy everything that is not meat, fruit or vegetables online as well. Did you know Amazon doesn’t charge me for shipping when I buy just one can of salmon? It’s amazing.)

So I buy the kids anything they want. Pretty much all the time. The only thing I have said no to that I can even remember is Pokemon card packs because I think it’s gambling. (You never know what you’ll get and sometimes the kids are disappointed.) This means that we don’t need eight days of presents on Hanukkah. Every day is Hanukkah here.

I bought them small gifts. I got my older son fossilized dinosaur poop. I got my younger son clothes at Abercrombie & Fitch. He fits into extra-small girls clothes but feels like he’s dressed like he’s the sixth member of One Direction.) They were happy. And they did not expect very much on Hanukkah.

I think I’ve taught them to have relatively low expectations on holidays and relatively high expectations for every day. They don’t expect gifts. They expect to be able to buy whatever they want, and to spend a lot of time and energy exploring.

 

12 replies
  1. Jana Miller
    Jana Miller says:

    “They expect to be able to buy whatever they want….”

    I don’t agree that this is a good thing for kids or adults. Creativity and resourcefulness does not rise out of buying whatever we want, it comes out of making things out of what we have whether it is physical materials or a situation that is difficult. I think this is giving your kids a false sense of reality.

    I think it’s important to support our kids interests but an unlimited amount of financial resources that can’t be maintained throughout adulthood is setting them up for failure.

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        I’m not so sure about this. I could buy anything I wanted when I was a kid. And this is something that happens when you can buy anything: you don’t care. You don’t think about what you want to buy, you think about what you want to do and make and feel.

        It’s kind of like unlimited video games. When kids come to our house to play they are obsessed with video games. But my kids don’t care, because we have unlimited video games.

        I don’t have scientific evidence to back this up, just my own upbringing. And watching my kids as well.

        Well, and one other thing. There’s pretty good evidence that you are born being a saver or spender — it’s tied closely to Myers Briggs scores. My personality type, ENTJ, is good with money, so I’m able to run a business and a family out of the same bank account. My son, ESFP, is notoriously materialistic, and I see it even now, as a seven-year-old: he’s obsessed with clothes even though he has no role model for that in our family.

        Penelope

        • Jana Miller
          Jana Miller says:

          You could be onto something. I used to give my kids “Candy Sunday” every Sunday. They could eat as much candy as they wanted to. My older son ate so much one week that he got sick.

          The younger one never ate that much. They have never had a problem with their weight. My older son (20) still eats more junk than the younger one(19). The younger one is very health conscious.

          And I my brother’s family gave up TV for a time. Every time they came over they were obsessed with the TV and would do nothing else. My kids got so sick of having them over.

          I’m just having a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that they are not learning what real life is if they can have whatever they want whenever they want it. I need to think about this one some more.

          • Jana Miller
            Jana Miller says:

            Now you’ve got me thinking…would this work for hoarders? Could you give them unlimited access to a storage facility and knowing they could keep everything they want, would that cure them of the hoarding?

  2. liz
    liz says:

    I like the idea of keeping expectations low for the holidays and haven’t figured out how to get there yet. I also feel really uncomfortable with buying them (or myself) more stuff all the time; still there is something about this post that really resonates.

  3. Mark Kenski
    Mark Kenski says:

    You enjoy being generous. There is no shame in that. And I don’t think you should change a thing.

    You teach your kids to be giving by being giving. It doesn’t have to be material. Just in your last post you talked about ways you give your time and care deeply about the intangible support of what your son loves to do. And your explanation of homeschooling itself is that it is a way to give your kids the best childhood they can have.

    But to the extent it is material, so be it. What exactly is money for if not for being able to give to your loved ones?

    You are teaching your kids that giving is as natural, easy and should be as common as exchanging hugs. And maybe showing others the way a little bit too. So keep up the good work!

  4. Joy
    Joy says:

    “relatively low expectations on holidays and relatively high expectations for every day.”

    It is true to us too. Actually I have hard time shopping for holidays.

    I tried using limiting to instill “reality” into their life. But it didn’t feel right.

    I experimented with saying “yes” to their requests for purchase and I am buying them stuff without their asking too. It has been for 2 years. What I get today:

    My son, who is 7, is very aware of quality, features, cost, deals…He only buys things after comparison, reasoning and discussion with me. I really enjoy watching his reasoning and thinking process. I contribute my reasoning too.

    My daughter, who is 4, is into small stuffed animals. She doesn’t really have concept of value yet. I just love seeing the joy her toys bring to her.

    I would like them to have a sense of abundance instead of scarcity. Interestingly, that is not totally defined by dollar amount.

  5. Brenda Craig
    Brenda Craig says:

    “I think I’ve taught them to have relatively low expectations on holidays and relatively high expectations for every day.”

    Yes! Relatively high expectations for every day!

    This is such a beautiful piece of writing, and a beautiful philosophy for life. I am so uncomfortable with gift-giving/receiving. I just like to buy what I want. People seem to think I’m nuts, especially at this time of year. You totally crystallized my feelings about it in just one sentence.

    Thank you, and happy EveryDay to you.

  6. karelys
    karelys says:

    I love this.

    When I was a kid I expected my parents to always be able to provide food. When I realized it took so much effort and there was never a for sure I was crushed. It was scary. I wonder how they’ll work it out when they realize the effort you put into making buying whatever they want happen.

    This post feels happy :).

  7. MoniqueWS
    MoniqueWS says:

    We like to live a life of abundance here too. Kids earn money at work they do for other people. They money the family has is available to everyone. We have discussion about the resources we have versus what we want – money, connections to people who have what we want and can borrow, making our own happen, etc.

    This year our business took a huge hit in terms of customers who have not paid for a L_O_N_G time (ever hopeful they will pay once they can). It changed the discussion tremendously.

    Our kids have owned the family resource reality. They are invested in making things happen that work well for all of us. I am so happy for and proud of them!

  8. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    We do this with food, for the most part. At home, we eat mainly organic and we cook 2 full meals a day. At night, it’s a “whatever you can find to eat” time, which means mama doesn’t have to cook & they clean up their dishes afterwards.

    But when we are out, we eat other things. They don’t pig out on junk food, but we don’t restrict it, either. We try to keep the fast food to the “better options” (not McD’s or Whataburger, etc.) but they get to eat it. And they learn how they feel after eating really well-made food compared to high-processed food.

    And what they have learned is that there is quality and then there is quantity. The same goes for toys. Our 11 & 9 year old daughters recognize value far more than our 6 year old son, but we are working on that with him.

    This is true for TV too. For a while, we restricted it a lot, but we don’t anymore. We only have 1 TV, but they each pick episodes they want to watch on cable or Netflix. They are very good at self-regulating themselves and each other.

    We do this so that they don’t grow up feeling deprived and then one day go off the deep end with not having any self-control. My parents always took the “Do as I say” stance and never explained their reasoning. I rebelled a great deal because there was no balance & freedom.

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